Trials, Errors, and Options After High School

Edan Reilly

Two months ago, students began the transition from online to in-person schooling. Now nerves have settled, and students and teachers alike are back in habit. Since then, conversations have shifted from the discussion of COVID precautions and the readjustment, to questions about college and what seniors have decided to pursue after graduation. While some have begun the venture of early-entrance, and others have set up the introductory step-stones of their selected professions, many are left unsure of what their next move will be. Whether fearful of facing adulthood, undecided on what career they might see themselves investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into, or unsure of what college they wish to attend, millions of students in the United States stand in the same place. 

Why may the concern of undecided majors be a smaller pickle than you think? While high school-aged students find themselves stressing over a nagging, and approaching deadline, college students everywhere find themselves discovering their major isn’t what they expected. About 80% of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In fact, college students change their majors an average of 3 times before they graduate. Additionally, it is estimated that 25-50% of students arrive on campus with an undecided major. This shows the majority of college students standing on the other side of this mental debate, possibly with a more clear view of their decision-making process. While the decision of an alternate major may seem risky to some, studies show the majority of major switches take place in parallel careers. This means the transfer of credits is smooth and not nearly as impeding as once thought, and most importantly, not a dead end.

So what happens if a student’s financial abilities limit their educational endeavors? While options such as scholarships and FAFSA are offered to some students, studies show those in lower-income households are less likely to come across financial assistance. This is because those in these households face lower opportunities to take advantage of educational advancements offered in schools due to factors such as cost, time, and materials. Despite this, many students facing income inequality have been shown to overcome the struggles of acceptance into postsecondary schooling. About 37 percent of low-income students currently attend community college. Additionally, nearly half of postsecondary graduates transfer from these community colleges, able to preserve the transferable credits earned before their relocation. This prevents students from spending the cost of a traditional four years at a given university, creating a more affordable alternative and allowing the achievement of the same goals. 

What if you don’t know if college is right for you? Many adults around the country have found themselves in agreement. 58% of Americans aged 25 and over do not have a college degree of any type, or any formal education past high school. The median income for this demographic in Colorado? $42,671 a year. Additionally, many alternatives to college are available to the general public, providing further education while creating greater job opportunities. Some of these alternatives include vocational education and trade schools, travel careers, apprenticeships, military, and entrepreneurship- the most popular and often profitable options for those not interested in college. 

In the end, many options exist for those unsure of what to do after graduation. While many preventative factors may limit or delay students decisions, many more options exist to aid in the transition from high school to adult life. Alternatives to college, financial aid, and the having the ability to change majors all aim to provide comfort to students who find themselves lost in the fear of making a decision they might regret. Additionally, options outside of education, trade schools, and community college exist, along with ideas not examined in this article. It is most of all encouraged to practice one’s own research in finding a career path aligned with their individual selves- importantly noting what is right for some doesn’t have to be for others.